Hum to jis haal main huye ruswa huye
Hindu bane to kafir huye, Musalmaan bane to mlechha huye[In every (human) form that I was born, was I insulted
When born a Hindu, I was outcaste as an infidel, when born a Muslim, I was outcaste as one polluted]

One wonders how the practical aspects of non- Brahmins being appointed as priests for Vaishnavite and Shaivite temples will work out- my own limited experiences as practically a mlechha in Tamil temples tells me that there are spaces even within the temples (the garbhgrahas) that forbids a non- Brahmin from entering there.

Karunanidhi may be a shadow of Periyar, and one does not have to agree with all that he has done immediately after his return as CM, but this one is as important a step as that of Laloo appointing Dalit preists in Bihar few years ago.

If we define tradition only through texts, then practices such as opening of temples to Dalits and abolition of the Devadasi system can be viewed as going against the agamas. The presence of fans, tube lights, and air conditioners in temples can also be seen as being against agama injunctions. The Maharajan committee too warns us against this.

Opening up of temples and the priesthood to all castes is a fight against discrimination based on birth. What is required is to expand the definition of discrimination and include women in it. It is time for the question: when will women be allowed to become priests?

Link via Krishworld

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Author: bhupinder singh

an occasional blogger

9 thoughts on “Blasphemy”

  1. dunno if uve heard of this, but in Pune, where i live, there are a few women priests – though ive never met any.. but i know for a fact that they do perform poojas n stuff..

    kinda strange i guess in a conservative brahmin bastion that the Pune i know is..

  2. dunno whether it’s tokenism either – but that’s possible too!

  3. Thanks for your comments. I do agree that this is somewhat strange considering the Chitpavan Brahmin dominance in Pune.

    But Poona also has been a place for alternative movements for at least a century and half.

    You may like to investigate influence of the social reform movements in Maharashtra with Jyotiba Phule and the schools for women that Satya Shodak samaj instituted in poona in the 1850s. And Pandita Ramabai’s work also in Poona.

    Regarding your comment on tokenism- one needs to investigate the meaning behind the tokens (lot of work done in this field in the 1960s, when structuralism reigned high). Some very fine work done by DD Kosambi in this field (in his book Myths and Reality). There is a link to some selections from Kosambi on my blog.

  4. will read up on the second part – tokenism..

    ur right abt the alternative movements, but speaking of Pandita Ramabai also reminds me that she ultimately went to the United States of A.
    co-incidentally am just about to begin reading Pandita Ramabai’s works (edited n translated by Meera Kosambi), so will learn more about that soon enough, in her own words..

  5. You can probably post a review of the book once you have read it. My copy is lying somewhere in my bookshelves still unread, I have moved from theory and social sciences to literature past few years.

    Meera Kosambi, as perhaps you already know, is DD Kosambi’s daughter.

  6. I have talked with female priests in Pune – not in temples, but the priests that are called into homes to perform the Satyanarayan Puja. My parents and their friends say that female priests are more systematic and less business-like, less hurried, about administering the puja. A couple of years ago, there was a favorable article (in the Pune Times, I think) about this trend.

    Suparna is quite right about Pune being a conservative brahmin bastion, but conservatism in Pune is no longer as bad as it used to be in the 1980s and earlier, and I doubt that it ever assumes the stifling proportions seen in South India in the Iyer and Iyengar communities.

  7. Polaris: I feel your point about Tamil conservatism and that in Poona is correct- reform movements started in Poona in the mid to late 19th century, while, in Tamil Nadu, to my knowledge it really becomes a powerful force with the rise of Periyar’s anti- Brahmin movement from the 1910s. In that sense, TN lags behind Poona by at least a few decades.

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